The transition from active duty to civilian life can be bumpy, if not arduous, for our nation's servicemembers. Those who come home wounded must face additional challenges, both physical and mental. Once the dust has settled, however, veterans must consider taking the next step in their life. For many, that means a return to school and an opportunity to pursue a new career path.
Earning an advanced degree can bring tangible benefits. Over their working lifetime, individuals with a bachelor's degree earn an average of 84 percent more than those with just a high school diploma, according to a 2011 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce. That was up from 75 percent in 1999.
Servicemembers may initially be deterred from pursuing an education because of concerns over paying for tuition, books, housing and other expenses. They may also have to overcome factors such as differences in life experience and age between traditional students and veterans.
However, there are numerous options available at many top-ranked colleges and universities nationwide, including undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered online. With 24/7 access, online degree and executive certificate programs provide students with flexibility in terms of when and where they study. Wounded veterans, in particular, may benefit from distance learning, which can lower obstacles related to physical disabilities, medical treatment, transportation and other factors.
Recent changes to the post-9/11 GI Bill mean that qualified servicemembers who are taking only online courses can receive a housing allowance. The bill's benefits also include a $1,000 annual book stipend and reimbursement for college admission tests such as the SAT.
In addition to the GI Bill, there are numerous other tuition assistance and vocational rehabilitation programs available for wounded warriors and other returning servicemembers. Those resources include:
The VOW, or Veterans Opportunity to Work, website also includes information about other VA resources, including the Disabled Transition Assistance Program, which helps servicemembers understand how their military experience and training may prepare them for a civilian job.
These are just a sampling of the programs available to wounded warriors and other returning servicemembers who want to pursue an education or vocational training. As with any undertaking, it's important to verify the authenticity of organizations and programs, and determine any eligibility requirements. The VA is a good starting point for prospective students looking to conduct such research.
Jason Monaghan writes on education topics for military and veterans. He also writes on topics such as business administration and corporate sustainability for a number of universities through the University Alliance.